Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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Over the past few weeks the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition has been on show at the Auckland Museum. Being the wildlife lover that I am as well as having an immense repect and admiration for wildlife photography, this world-renowned exhibition filled with images of fascinating animal behavior and breathtaking landscapes drew me in like moth to a flame.

This exhibition features 100 photographs placed in different categories. I would like to share with you just a few of my personal favourites with their exhibition desciption.

1. Eye of Toad - Lucasz Bozycki


Description: Early spring sees a pond near Łukasz's home city of Warsaw, Poland, full of mating frogs and a few toads. On this March day, Łukasz shared the pond with them for an evening, sitting in the icy water in his chest-high waders, keeping as still as possible, despite the numbing cold, so that the amphibians could get used to him. 'I wanted to find a fresh way of portraying the amphibians,' he says, 'at water level.'

Using a telephoto lens, he focused on one lone toad and waited for the sun to dip almost below the horizon before pressing the shutter, using flash to bring out the details in the shadow. His prize was 'the glorious pool of sunset colour' and fiery glow of the toad's eye.

2. Curiosity and the Cat - Hannes Lochner


Description: Hannes has spent nearly five years perfecting his remote wireless technology to photograph intimate portraits of wild African animals, by night especially. In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari, South Africa, he set up one camera near a waterhole, hiding it from lions especially, which might play with it or carry it off.

On this particular evening, he was settled in his vehicle, just as the sun was setting and the dust in the air creates a special kind of Kalahari light, when a pride of lions arrived. By repeatedly clicking the shutter, he coaxed the ever-curious cubs forward.

This bold individual gazed into the camera lens as it stepped forwards to sniff the strange object. 'All the camera settings were on manual,' explains Hannes, 'and I had pre-focused. So I could do no more than hope I had judged the lighting and angle correctly.' He had done so, capturing the intimate portrait and the eye-contact he was after.

3. Showdown - Peter Delaney


It was midday, and Peter had arrived at a waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. Scores of white-backed and lappet-faced vultures covered an eland carcass, squabbling over the meat. 'Two things hit me simultaneously,' says Peter.'The vile stench of rotting flesh and the intense buzz of flies.'

The white-backed vultures were surprisingly violent as they vied for the best feeding positions. This particular individual had backed off from a fight but was about to re-enter the fray. Covered in dust, wings spread, head lowered, it reminded Peter of a gladiator in his chariot, lining up for a charge. Its picture is a portrayal of the true character of this feisty bird.

4. Bad Boys - Andrew Walmsley


The target of these Celebes crested macaques is not the flying cricket but a big male macaque just ahead of them. Andrew was documenting the macaques to raise awareness of these critically endangered primates - found only on Sulawesi and nearby islands - as his contribution to an Indonesian-based conservation project.

He was on the beach, concentrating on photographing the male, who was gazing peacefully out to sea, when suddenly the peace was shattered by noise from behind. 'I turned round to see these young males charging. They were screaming, kicking up gravel and making as big a show as possible, their faces full of expression.

I had just one chance to capture the energy and passion of the display, as in seconds it was all over. The dominant male stood his ground, took just three paces forward, and the group's bravado crumbled. All four members of the rebellion turned tail and ran.'

5. Greg du Toit - Essence of Elephant | WINNER

Since first picking up a camera, Greg has photographed African elephants. ‘I’ve always wanted to capture their special energy and their state of consciousness,’ he says.

The shot was taken at a waterhole in Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve from a sunken hide.

Greg used a slow shutter speed to create the atmosphere and ‘to depict these gentle giants in an almost ghostly way.’ He used a tilted wide-angle lens to catch the size of any elephant entering the foreground, and a narrow aperture to create depth of field so that elephants in the background would also be in focus.

To emphasise their mystery, he attached a polarising filter and set his white balance to a cool temperature. The lucky final touch was the baby elephant, which raced by so close. The slow shutter speed conveyed the motion, and a burst of flash at the end of the exposure froze the fleeting detail.

All 100 photographs were spectacular in their own way but for me the five above stood out the most. Which was your favourite??

© Chene Wales-Baillie

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